Are we heading towards a “world without rights”, but subject to “rights”, that is to say to a heterogeneous range of claims emanating from individuals or groups with diverse, changing, contradictory, imprecise motivations and interests? By asking this crucial and very current question, Stéphane Braconnier, president of the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas and teacher in public economic law, is doing the work of a jurist and not of a pamphleteer. His work, A world without rights (L’Aube, 136 pages, 16 euros), concise and perfectly affordable – which is not always self-evident for a subject that is readily considered off-putting – is based on this observation: “The law still had, until fairly recently, this ability to impose itself” everyone, this acceptability appearing to be consubstantial with the social pact.
However, notes the professor, this evidence is no longer one, attacked from all sides by demands motivated solely by the consideration of particular interests. The reflection is certainly not new but, passed through the sieve of a solid legal argument instead of the usual imprecations against this or that camp, it takes on a new dimension, nuanced, appeased.
Stéphane Braconnier is thus campaigning for a necessary return to “fundamentals”i.e. to the understanding that “the rule of law is accepted on condition that the governed, in the community they form, perceive its correctness by disregarding their individual and particular situation”. Because, according to him, the movement to question the very notion of shared norm today threatens an edifice patiently stratified by the work of doctrine, the legislator, and case law.
Therefore, the way seems open to a “consumerist approach” of law through which each individual, each group, considers the rule to be just only when it does not run counter to his sensitivity, his convictions, or his own interests.
What remedies to bring to this questioning “protean” of the norm and the law, “seen here as inefficient, too permissive or acting out of time, there as illegitimate, unfair or too harsh” ? The author finds here the accents of the teacher. According to him, the “need to reacculturate society to law and the principle of general interest” requires above all a redesigned legal education, not only for law students and professional lawyers but also for “all citizens”.
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